On Nov. 8, Nevada voters will be asked to weigh in on Question 3, otherwise known as the Energy Choice Initiative. Question 3 is a forward-thinking measure that creates an open, well-regulated energy market in the Silver State based on much-needed electricity competition. It will lower electricity costs through expanded consumer choice, spur the creation of thousands of jobs, and provide Nevadans with cleaner energy options.
Naysayers will try to discourage Nevadans from embracing these lofty goals, but why should Nevadans be shackled to a century-old, outdated electric monopoly with no choice? Technological advances have made once uneconomical choices such as green energy, onsite storage and distributed generation both possible and cost-effective. What’s more, this new open market will have no effect on reliability.
When NV Energy CEO Paul Caudill spoke in a TV interview in August, he confirmed that if Nevadans approve Question 3, there will be no real risk to the state’s electricity reliability — in other words, the lights and air conditioner will continue to come on when you need them.
Fearmongering surrounding the potential for market manipulation should also be put to bed. In the wake of the Western energy crisis of the 1990s, Congress voted to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) far-reaching power to better oversee the energy market, protect consumers from fraud and other misconduct, and deliver stiff fines for wrongdoing. The agency’s budget has also been expanded to provide for teams of lawyers, economists and investigators that monitor our power markets on a daily basis.
As a result, manipulative market behavior of the type seen during the crisis is no longer a legitimate threat.
Supporters of Question 3 are already beginning to work with Nevada lawmakers and policymakers to ensure future energy laws and regulations will follow important principles such as: requiring all energy providers meet renewable energy portfolio standards; setting a long-term goal of achieving at least 80 percent clean energy by 2040; ensuring that existing customers, especially low-income Nevadans, have access to clean energy and lower bills and are not left with increased costs; ensuring that stranded assets are dealt with fairly; allowing for programs such as community solar; and allowing for customers to install local clean energy with fair credit for the clean energy they produce.
These principles and others were created in collaboration with the environmental community, including the Clean Energy Project — an advocacy organization that educates community and business leaders on the importance of forward-thinking energy policies.
As general counsel at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission during the energy crisis and the longest serving chairman in FERC’s history, I am confident that with the laws and resources in place, along with whatever additional requirements the Legislature will deem necessary upon approval of Question 3, Nevada consumers will enjoy all the benefits an open, well-regulated market has to offer.
If passed by Nevada voters, Question 3 will set the state on a trajectory to be an example for the 21st century energy grid.
Question 3 provides for the possibility of a neutral grid operator and fair and well-regulated competition that produces lower prices, more green energy options and advances in energy technology with the power to change the way we live. The measure is an important step forward that creates a foundation for Nevada’s green grid of the 21st century. I urge you to look into the facts and vote yes on Question 3.
Jon Wellinghoff, chief policy officer at SolarCity, chaired the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission from 2009 to 2013.